Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tough Mudder

(In retrospect, this is really kind of a downer post. For a more upbeat look at the same race, please see Amber's blog. And the rest of the pictures are here.)

A disappointment on many levels, this race. Misnamed, for one - other than the hills, it wasn't all that tough, and really wasn't very muddy either. But let's start at the beginning.

This race crossed our radar quite a while ago, and sounded like a fun challenge. We quickly came up with a team concept, and despite the pretty steep price tag, got our team signed up. One of the main selling points was the headline sponsor, Dogfish Head brewery - one of the most interesting and innovative breweries in the country, who would be offering free pints at the finish. As the race grew nearer, I was actually more excited about that than the race itself - mostly due to my lack of training for it.

But the weekend arrived, and Team Library Dork carpooled our way over Ebbetts Pass, past Bear Valley to stay in the town of Arnold. Now, Tough Mudder had been sending out update texts to a few of us about the race, and one of them warned us of possible snow and road closures over Ebbetts Pass. We questioned this as we saw clear skies to the west as we left Carson City, but were a little worried nonetheless. Of course, the warning was completely unwarranted - there was no snow, no closure - barely even long sleeve weather when we stopped the car for a pee break near the summit. Not sure what that was about.

So, after a night at a somewhat disorganized hotel in Arnold and breakfast in town, we costumed up. Our team was "WWMD - What Would Magnum Do?" so those of us who could wear the mustache did so, and a couple of us wore fakes. A couple of group photos at the race area here:

As we got down toward the registration area, we had to walk past the finish area, where we spotted one of the first disappointments of the day - the beer tent, sponsored by Dos Equis. This was not Dogfish Head. Apparently something had changed with the sponsorship - and thus began the sour taste that was to be left in our mouth for the rest of the day.

The packet pickup lines were inside the ski lodge. Basically, the cafeteria was packed with a disorganized mass of humans, all trying to figure out what line to stand in and where to go. When, eventually, we made it through our line to pick up our packets, we had to cut across most of the other lines to get to the t-shirt pick-up and "body marking." Yep, they required sharpie marking on foreheads and one other body part. Not sure why, it was mostly gone by the end of the race anyway.

After getting organized, we made our way to the start in time for our wave - the Dark Purple wave - to go off. Actually, we had the privilege of standing on the side of a hill while someone with a microphone killed time by playing the national anthem and doing some silly military call-and-response stuff. Eventually they let our wave go - here's what it looked like from the start:

Little downhill there, which was counted as the first "obstacle." then some dirt road before the second obstacle. Or, in fact, before we got to wait in line to do the next obstacle. Despite the wave starts, there were still too many people at the obstacle and it got clogged up. Here's some of our people coming through it, you can see our hawaiian shirts.

Despite the wait, we were through before too long and on our way to the next obstacle, which turned out to be little more than some downhill switchbacks on the trail. Which there was a line for. Then a big climb, then a tunnel-ey thing which the line was fairly short for. More climbing, and a big line to go over a set of cable spools that we were directed to do only one of, instead of both. More climbing, through snowmaking machines, and to the top, where the next obstacle was the only real mud in the Tough Mudder - and which we were forced to wait for. Not just through a line this time; they were holding everyone back because the line at the NEXT obstacle was also too long. Eventually they let people go - and then stopped the group again just before we were about to go. FINALLY we slogged through the mud pit, then waited in line at the next obstacle as well. Here's the mud pit and the next one - can't remember the name they dreamed up for it, but again we were instructed to just do one of them instead of the set of two.

Down a big hill, up a big hill - the toughest parts of this were the hills. If not for them, it would've been a romp. After this hill, we had a good 15 minute wait in line to go over a silly pile of logs. Then on to a pretty good set of obstacles, involving a seriously chilly man-made lake. Into the lake, under some barrels, out of the lake, sliding back down into it, and back out again. It was really cold, and that was manageable, but this thing smelled like only slightly treated sewer water. I'm still surprised there wasn't an outbreak of some kind of plague among the contestants. Anyway, here's what it looked like:

Then there was some silliness with carrying a piece of wood about a quarter mile - looked like this:

Climbing over and back on a 10-12 foot fence a few times was actually a decent challenge - then we headed down toward the finish and last few obstacles. First there was another climb-under-something one that I don't much remember. Then the "Mystery Obstacle" which turned out to be drinking a shot of watered down hot sauce - pretty lame. And the last, dash through the fire (as hyperbolically pictured on the Tough Mudder logo) - which was basically jumping over a couple of gas hibachis. So challenging that I did a 360 spin over the last one.

So, the course wasn't really that tough, despite the hills. It might have been, had there not been all that time waiting to catch your breath - but as it was, it felt like doing a long set of intervals. And I hadn't really even trained for it.

I'm not even really sure how much more I need to complain about this race. It was a very expensive race, but then they dropped the price in the last month to try to pack more people into it, which lowered the quality of the event drastically. The obstacles weren't that challenging, the promised photography was minimal, they charged for spectator tickets and then tried to charge exorbitant amounts for food on top of that. It felt like going to Disneyland - once they got you in there, they were going to try to suck all the money out of you while making you stand in lines all day. Without the roller coasters.

The one good thing that I can say is that the charity that benefits from the series, the Wounded Warrior Project, is at least an above-the-boards organization. I looked them up on a couple of charity-watch sites, because I'd hate to have thought that ALL of my money went to some sort of scam. Unfortunately, they're not going to be getting any of my money next year, simply because of the way this race was organized and run.


SnowLeopard said...

Yeah, I checked the the Tough Mudder site and they made $90,000 on this race! While the race, yes, was a let down, I was there to spend time with TLD and enjoy a beautiful day in the sun! And in that aspect I was happy. :)

And this is funny- the word verification below is a little ironic: suckless.

slowrunner77 said...

whoa - mine was unitwack! lucky i have that cup. oh wait, it's in the sewer water at Tough Mudder. there's another $10 spent...
good time, yes...but that was because of the company. and the beer. and food. NOT because of this money-grubbing joke of an event!

Unknown said...

I did the first tough mudder I am glad it looks like they have improved a bit there were massive lines at the obstacles and the parking was a nightmare I am tempted to do another on, I am signed up for the Spartan Race as well in VT next year